Resist a World of Hunger! Struggle for Land and for Food Sovereignty! | #Hungry4Change

Joint Statement of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) on World Hunger Day 2020.

October 16 marks the 41st year of the World Food Day set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, food producers and the population across Asian countries and many parts of the world are facing even worse hunger as a result of the pandemic, ensuing repressive lockdowns, and decades of implementation of policies that deprive people of their right to safe, nutritious and adequate food.

Based on estimates, acute hunger or the number of acutely food-insecure people is set to double as a result of the pandemic. This translates to almost 2 billion people without access to food. For 2020 alone, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry as a result of the economic recession triggered by the COVID-19.

Throughout Asia, people are dying because of hunger, some are taking their own lives because of lack of livelihood and means to feed their families and hungry children. Some experience eviction and displacement even during the time of the pandemic. In the region where the pandemic’s toll can be much felt by the population, the number of undernourished stands at 381 million or equivalent to 8.3 percent of the entire population. In South Asia, in particular, hundreds of millions cannot afford a healthy diet . In the Philippines, 100 children die each day due to malnutrition. In Sabah, east of Malaysia, and in other places with refugees like in west of Malaysia, you will find children sniffing glue to beat hunger. Food price index reached a six-month high last August as prices of cereals, vegetable oils, and sugar prices increased tremendously.

We know that in the entire region, if land resources have been distributed fairly through genuine agrarian reform and if farmers are assured of their right to land, and there are no land grabs and other hindrances to adequate and farmer-led food production, our food security front liners — farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, and the rural youth engaged in farming can easily provide food for the people even during lockdowns and emergency situations. Food security for all can be guaranteed.

However, that is not our reality. In underdeveloped countries, food producers are deprived of land by monopoly corporations and their local counterparts. The absence of genuine agrarian reform and the implementation of neoliberal policies perpetuated by the governments in Asia and the rest of the world have exacerbated food insecurity and hunger.

At the global level, the entire food system is dominated by imperialist powers, especially by the US which is the world’s largest food exporter. Agricultural markets and heavily-subsidized agricultural production are focused on producing cash crops for exports, and rural economies have been perpetually tied down to global agri-businesses and the global value chain. Our land and domestic resources have become permanent sources of raw materials and crops for export to capitalist countries. While we experience inhumane hunger, food waste due to overproduction, and speculative hoarding of essential food products by a selected few are rapidly increasing. This all the more makes hunger and food insecurity unjust and intolerable.

Monopoly corporations from the industrialized countries and the global institutions that represent them are even using the COVID-19 crisis to further advance their destructive, harmful and profit-driven agenda. The pandemic has provided the agrochemical industry, for instance, with the perfect cover to further expand their reach, especially among smallholder farmers, who provide up to 80% of food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and are responsible for keeping many traditional, climate-resilient breeds alive. Instead of promoting people-centered agroecology to address food security concerns amid the pandemic, the FAO is even strengthening its partnership with big agrochemical industry lobby group CropLife International to make agri-food systems more dependent on costly technologies that harm the environment and bankrupt farmers and small food producers.

These neoliberal actors are also at the helm of the 2021 Food Systems Summit (FSS), which the United Nations will convene to transform food systems toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in time. However, developments reveal the corporate bias of the people behind its preparations. The World Economic Forum plays a major role due to its strategic partnership with the UN. Agnes Kalibata from the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa, known for devastating Africa’s agriculture and aggravating hunger in the continent, is the summit’s appointed Special Envoy. Like Kalibata, the summit’s “champions” represent the interests of big agribusinesses. The FSS may have the potential to bring the change we need to our food systems, but the rural peoples are nowhere in the picture.

The “One Decade to Zero-Hunger” sustainable development goal set to 2030 is impossible. To overcome the systemic hunger we experience on a daily basis, we must continue to assert our right to till the land, assert our control over agriculture and food production, and our right to affordable food. We must resist a world of hunger and famines and work determinedly to build a new world where farmers and the masses would never go hungry anymore. ###

Our demands:

  • Fight for food systems change now!
  • Resist a world of hunger!
  • Struggle for land and food sovereignty!
  • Advance people-centered agroecology!
  • Genuine land reform now!

Photo: Rural groups in Bangladesh stage a protest action to commemorate the World Hunger Day 2020.

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